Hours after Pamela Anderson's public allegation that she endured years of sexual abuse while growing up on Vancouver Island, the actress sent an e-mail, from France, to her mother in Nanaimo.
In it was a transcript of her speech, which detailed the abuse, from age six into her teens, at the hands of a babysitter, a boyfriend and others. It was her mother's first time learning of the claims. She was stunned and devastated.
"It got the whole family in shock," Carol Anderson told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday. "But she has the full backing and support of the family, whatever she wants to do about it, if anything. If it helps somebody else get through something like that, then it's a good thing. But we were all in shock."
The B.C.-born actress, model and activist – known for her television roles in Baywatch and V.I.P. and campaigns with animal rights group PETA – was launching the Pamela Anderson Foundation at the Cannes Film Festival in France on Friday when she gave an emotional speech about childhood abuse and finding strength and solace in animals. The foundation benefits various animal and environmental protection organizations.
"I did not have an easy childhood," said Ms. Anderson, wearing a long white gown and reading from a sheet of paper. "Despite loving parents, I was molested from age six to 10 by my female babysitter. I went to a friend's boyfriend's house, and while she was busy, the boyfriend's older brother decided he would teach me backgammon, which led into a back massage, which led into rape – my first heterosexual experience. He was 25 years old, I was 12. My first boyfriend in Grade 9 decided it would be funny to gang rape me with six of his friends."
A woman in the crowd could be heard saying, "Oh my God."
"Needless to say, I had a hard time trusting humans and I just wanted off this Earth," she said.
The actress told the crowd that her parents – an alcoholic father and a mother who worked two waitressing jobs – tried to keep her safe, but it did not feel safe to her. To keep her mother from worrying, she kept the stories of abuse to herself.
"I couldn't bear to give her any more disruptive information, so I couldn't break her heart any more than it was breaking," Ms. Anderson said. "I kept these events to myself."
After reading her daughter's e-mail, Carol Anderson said she took time to "let it all sink in." The two had been close, and she couldn't wrap her head around how something like that could have happened without her knowing.
"It's all very heart-wrenching, when you think of what she was going through, and then I guess she figured she didn't want to put us through any more. I wish she would have," Carol Anderson said. "That should have been handled way back when it happened, you know? I can't even remember babysitters or anything that we had; it was so many years ago. "
She then told her husband, Barry, and son, Gerry, Pamela's brother. "It was really hard for my husband and my [son] to hear because, being men, they feel like they really let her down, because they're the protectors.And they didn't have any idea what was going on, and neither did I."
Corporal Darren Lagan, spokesman for the Island District RCMP, said Wednesday that Mounties learned of the actress's comments through media coverage and will be following up with her.
"Given the nature of the allegations, an investigator with the Ladysmith RCMP is in the process of reaching out to Ms. Anderson to discuss the matter with her directly," Cpl. Lagan said in an e-mailed statement. "Given the sensitive nature of these allegations, and out of respect for Ms. Anderson's privacy, we will provide no further comment at this time."
There is no statute of limitations for sexual assault claims in Canada.
The actress could not be reached for an interview on Wednesday and her publicist declined to comment on her remarks.
Ms. Anderson was born in Ladysmith, B.C., and attended Highland Secondary School in Comox. She was first discovered in 1989, at age 22, while at a B.C. Lions football game in Vancouver.